19-25 June 2015 #763

Never too late

Devika Gharti Magar in Himal Khabarpatrika, 14-20 June


Shanta Chaudhary never went to school because she was forced to become a Kamlari (girl-child indentured labourer) at the age of eight. After being freed, she became an activist, working for the rights of landless farmers and to abolish Kamlari culture.

When the CPN (UML) chose her as a member of the first Constituent Assembly (CA) under the Proportional Representation system in 2008, many were surprised to see an uneducated former bonded labourer in the parliament. Chaudhary who chaired the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means was often ridiculed by other members for being illiterate.

“I felt humiliated,” she recalls. “Had my parents been able to send me to school, I would not have faced such abuses.”

Chaudhary then enrolled herself in a six-month adult literacy class, where she learnt to read and write. At the first parliamentary committee meeting, Chaudhary took more than five minutes to write her name. Other lawmakers watched as she wrote her name with great difficulty.

Last month she enrolled in Grade 8 of Danda Gaun Higher Secondary School near her hometown in Dang.

“I didn’t have time and money to go to school when I was a child,” she says. “I now have both so I am making use of the opportunity.”

Chaudhary’s two children, a son and a daughter are also studying in the same school. Her son is in Grade 9 and daughter is in Grade 8.

At first Chaudhary says her children were embarrassed to be going to school with their mother, even the teachers laughed at her, but after seeing how determined she was, they have all grown supportive.

Chaudhary wanted to join school last year but she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and has been undergoing treatment.

In 2013 Chaudhary published a much-acclaimed autobiography about her journey from being a child slave to a Constituent Assembly member.

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